Friday, September 10, 2004

Friday, September 10, 2004

From Times Online


September 10, 2004


Witness tells how Thai officer killed British couple


From Andrew Drummond in Kanchanaburi, and Jenny Booth, Times Online


A witness has described in graphic detail how she saw a Thai policeman gun down two British tourists in the holiday resort of Kanchanaburi in western Thailand.


Adam Lloyd, 24, and Vanessa Arscott, 23, from Torquay, were killed in the early hours of yesterday while staying in the town, where tourists flock to see the Bridge over the River Kwai.


The prime suspect is Senior Sergeant Somchai Wisetsingh, a police officer who owns the S&S restaurant in Kanchanaburi where the couple had eaten. He allegedly became involved in an argument involving the couple over dinner and followed them when they left.


He is believed to be on the run after police turned down his offer to hand himself in on provision that he was granted bail.


Related Links
British couple killed on the River Kwai
A 26-year-old witness has told The Times that she saw everything that happened after Miss Arscott ran away from the table in tears.


'I was in the Resort Restaurant when I saw the girl Vanessa walking past in the direction of her guest house. It was not at 3am as police say, but much earlier, maybe 12.30 or 1am,' said the woman, who asked not to be named for fear of reprisals.


'Then along came a Volvo car with Mr Somchai and a foreigner I now know to be Adam in the passenger seat.


'Adam got out and started arguing with Vanessa. I could not hear what they were saying but I saw Mr Somchai get out and tell Adam to be quiet. Adam turned round and shouted 'f*** off!' at Mr Somchai and hit him in the face.


'Mr Somchai then walked back to his car. I saw him sitting in the driving seat and then shoot Adam through the window. There were two shots. This was very close to a bar where many people were eating and drinking, and outside a car repair shop.


'Then Vanessa ran round to hide behind the car. Mr Somchai put the car in reverse and ran her over. He reversed 150 metres down the road towards the S&S cafe, dragging her under the car, and then stopped.


'He inched the car forward to get clear of her body and then got out of the car. I did not exactly see the gun being fired, but I heard the shots, and so did several people in the restaurant.'


Thai police say that the hunt for the killer is being hampered because witnesses - like this woman - are afraid to testify against a police officer.


Police Colonel Wed Somboon, of Kanchanaburi police in Western Thailand, said that six eyewitnesses had refused to give evidence.


'This is because the suspect is a policeman and they are afraid of retaliation because they all live nearby,' he added.


The woman told The Times that testifying would be crazy. She said: 'Nobody in the right mind would give evidence against Thai police, here or anywhere else in Thailand for that matter.


'It's like signing your own death warrant. I can talk to the foreign press but I cannot give my name because I have no guarantee that the murderer will be kept in prison for the rest of my life.'


Related Links
British couple killed on the River Kwai
Colonel Somboon said that Mr Somchai was spotted in the centre of town hours after the killing. He rang the police by mobile phone and offered to give himself up on condition he received bail, but the police refused to agree.


He and his wife have left their home at Thamok, five miles from Kanchanaburi, and are being sought by a team of 100 officers. Their pictures have been circulated along the Thai-Burma border.


His car has been found with bloodstains, and a warrant has been issued for his arrest.


Colonel Somboon denied reports in the Thai press from Mr Somchai's father Sunthorn that Vanessa had already had an affair with the officer the night before.


The owner of the two pound a night guest house Sugar Cane 2 where they stayed insisted that the couple returned together every night.


The Thai press have described Mr Somchai as a womaniser. The consensus amongst most of the papers was that he was angry that he had failed to seduce the 'polite foreign woman'.


'That he is a butterfly is true,' said the female witness. 'He is notorious for chasing women. But he never goes after single girls. He seems to the like going after married couples.


'It's like a challenge to him. His own wife puts up with it.'


Kanchanaburi is famous for the bridge that carries the so-called death railway over the Kwai. The bridge and the railway were built for the Japanese by Allied prisoners of war and local slave labour during the second world war. Both were made famous by David Lean's 1957 film, The Bridge Over the River Kwai, starring Alec Guinness


Ms Arscott's grief-stricken parents paid tribute to the couple who had been due to return to Britain tomorrow after backpacking together for two months.


Graham and Joyce Arscott said: 'Vanessa has been snatched from the love and safety of our family in circumstances which we find impossible to comprehend.


'Our family's heart goes out to Lynne and Brian, Adam's parents. We know how proud of Adam they were and he was dearly loved, so we know exactly the awful emotions they are all feeling today.'


Ms Arscott was studying health and fitness at a local college, and stayed with her grandmother Eileen Arscott, from Kingsteignton, south Devon, at weekends.


Mrs Arscott said: 'We were very close. She was due back this weekend. I cannot believe this has happened.'


Thai police have had mixed success in tracing the culprits after attacks on Westerners. No-one has ever been convicted of murdering Welsh backpacker Kirsty Jones, 23, who was found raped and strangled in a guesthouse in Chiang Mai in the north of Thailand in August 2000


Guests heard sounds of a struggle from her room but no-one interfered, thinking it was a lovers' quarrel. Her body lay undiscovered for 15 hours.

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